Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Linear Circle

Ada on a Washignton State Ferry
I do not work on my birthday. The reason is simple enough. On my birthday, I would rather it not be a terrible day. If I go to work, the chances of it becoming a terrible day exponentially increase. So instead, I get up early (because I always get up early) put on a pair of capris and my favorite top and ride a Washington State ferry—alone. This is as close as I can get to the sea, and I go there for reasons similar to Ishmael's at the beginning of Moby Dick.

The Seattle-Bremerton crossing is my favorite because it is one of the longest, which affords me time to think. Solitude allows me space to think.

Consider: I missed breakfast. I wanted poached eggs on toast. I needed food. But on Vashon, I eventually ate a bowl of muesli and wonderful croissant with raspberry jam (settled with a strong cup of black coffee). I think about missing the breakfast at home. Did I really miss it? Or did I only want it? How many wants and needs could I consider this way?

And for the first time again, I remember that ferries freight a great deal of my memories of love. They come and go and look the same but each boat and trip is different.

The great advantage of a Washington State ferry as a vessel for birthday contemplation (or really, any sort of anniversary) is that it lacks a bow and stern. The end going forward eventually goes backwards, or… you can see how recursive thinking is fostered on such a boat. I can feel the engine reciprocating and I look aloft to see the instruments on the mast measuring the earth and our course—no straight line, but constantly changing.

I like to watch where I have been even through it doesn’t look anything like what it was because it comes and passes and the perspective has changed. But I’ve been on this route before just as I’ve been around this star forty-seven times—a sort of circle. But as the Sun moves through space, dragging us along, is it going in a circle or a line? Can I even conceive of such a thing beyond the perfected abstractions of calculus?

It isn’t even a circle but an ellipse, and most circles are ellipses in perspective.

The scenery of the Puget Sound is closer, more familiar, but just as susceptible to mutability but I am susceptible to the notion the change is the only concept that does not change.

For example, at work I hear more and more of my same-age colleagues discussing their divers health problems and maintenance issues. What surprises me at first is that these are not the grizzled old-timers telling war stories about their gall-bladders. No, they've all retired. These are women and men my age telling war stories about their gall bladders. As long as people have gall bladders they will age and complain about them. That much remains the same, but it is my shifting perspective where I must realize I am one of them.

And when did wisdom become uncertainty? I know that Confucius said something about it, and yet for all these years of humanity, I have met a few people who seem very set in their knowledge. They react in vehement emotional violence to anything that upsets their prized foundations and I realize... they were always like that. Now they just think they're even more entitled to it owing to a few years. Gods what an awful way to live. Being certain is so much work!

I look at the banks of low fog burning off on the June mornings and I wonder if The Mountain is there or not. How could I tell at this point? How would it look any different? Were it not for the comforting familiarity of this mental ritual I would get dizzy and be in danger of falling into the Sound. Forty-seven would be it.
“It seemed like her life was turning around. She had a new job, a new guy in her life who really seemed to be the One.She was only 47…” 
"Turning around." How ironic on a ferry. I smile at the entire thought, which is not, I will tell you, an ideation, even though a thought and ideation are the same thing. The desire to read my obituary is not really a morbid compulsion to suicide, but rather I'd like to know what someone really thinks. Is that not generally true? As true as anything else, which is to say that wisdom, hard wrought from age, is knowing when to ask or wonder why.

The Ferris wheel on the waterfront (which wasn't there when I first moved to Seattle) turns and turns and I believe I have said all of this before. Perhaps. But not on this birthday—a birthday I will never have again until the next time.

Of course, I can't know when that would be. Such is the price of wisdom

1 comment:

  1. I've wanted to draw her in a sailor middy for some time.